REVIEWS: THE HERO AND THE CROWD IN A COLONIAL POLICY By A. W. Singham

The conflicts in the Grenadian polity could be found at several levels: Executive-Legislative relations manifesting itself in conflict of legal domination (acting according to the rules versus charisma; the rural-urban cleavage, the former the stronghold of the hero and the latter the stronghold of the middle-class hero or counter-hero; and finally in the conflict between the elite and the masses. The last-mentioned level merits discussion since ii is where the battle is joined covertly in many colonial and recently-colonial territories. In Grenada, like other Caribbean territories, the society is a closed one. In addition, these territories have inherited the class-ridden values of English society. The result is that class m the Caribbean is as big a problem as colour, with which ii is often linked. In Grenada, M. G, Smith characterizes the elites and the masses as two culture and the conflict between these two competing status groups manifests itself in the political arena. Many in the middle class in the Caribbean form the elite and bring into play their authoritarian personality behaviour in their dealings with the masses. A recent study based on the responses of leaders in six Caribbean territories indicate that half of the leaders did not think that the democratic form of government was desirable for their territory (Moskos, P. 49). This is not very surprising given their virtual contempt for the masses. Therefore, in Grenada, with constitutional advancement enabling a few of the masses to become members of the mid-elite, the battle for local political power was joined. As far as the ‘counter-elites’ were concerned, they could not” trust the mid-elites to render the “good government “ they had in mind for the masses the original contempt of the elite for the mid-elites is compounded when the latter attempt to gain entry into the social world of the elite, thereby threatening “to upset the whole system of social relations within the colony” (P. 323 ). The mid-elites therefore, meet frustration at the social and political levels in their attempts to legitimize their newly-won status. One area of frustration in the political sphere is the unwillingness of the bureaucracy to co-operate with the mid-elites when the latter attempt to implement their political objectives. Singham points out that “the political history of the colony from 1951, and particularly the crisis of 1962, can be viewed largely as the struggle by the new political mid-elites to establish their legitimacy, in face of the continued attempts by the bureaucracy to deny them this legimacy” ( P. 321 )

In the final analysis, because of the dosed nature of the society access to the elite world is not easily and readily facilitated by the elite themselves. Therefore, when such access is provided, it is done sparingly and grudgingly. The result is that the few mid-elites who are absorbed set about to dish out the same treatment in the very fashion that was meted out to them since they now have a “vested interest in maintaining the social structure and their place in it.”

Reference has already been made to the ‘good government’ that the counter-elites, when out of power, are waiting in the wings to provide. This statement should not be taken in too sarcastic a fashion and assume that the mid-elites are providing efficient government when in power. Given the problems inherent in any colonial polity such as Grenada, the mid-elites may not have any monopoly on efficient government, and Gairy’s inability to organize his political party, his “reckless demands” and actions “as though he was above the law,” in addition to his political miscalculation, are creditable illustrations.

Professor Singham attempts to look at the Grenadian polity through the eyes of a Thud World social scientist and runs smack into the problem that will confront other Third World social scientists attempting to view political systems from that perspective, namely, the reliance on conventional theories and models of Western social scientists. For example, Singham in this case relies on Max Weber’s legitimazation scheme extensively. The problem is analogous to the man who wishes to see green objects around him. Instead of resorting to paint, he resorts to green-tinted shades which give him no more than a very temporary effect. With the shades off, all returns to normal. In his attempt therefore, Professor Singham has demonstrated to Third World social scientists who will attempt similar analyses from such a perspective, the enormous complexity of the problem. No prescriptions are offered here but perhaps a refined plantation model could be of value.

This reviewer cannot agree with another observer that the plantation model does not fit Grenada (Pabon, P. 13). The plantation model, like all other models, is an ideal type, and any deviation from the ideal type does not indicate that the basic requirements of the model have not been fulfilled. The assertion that “Grenada outgrew … slavery a long time ago,” is wide off the mark (Pabon P. 13). In most places where that peculiar institution was introduced, it has sunk its roots so deeply into the political culture of those areas that it is beyond uprooting, especially in the New World and even more so, in the Caribbean.

What is in the future for territories in the Caribbean? Professor Singham says that they “are likely to involve continuing personalist forms of government “. The reason for this conclusion is twofold: (a) the colonial heritage and (b) the small size of the territories. The prescriptions to overcome these shortcomings are formidable-decolonization of leaders and the mass of people, the strengthening of parties and institutions and finally, the formation of a federation to overcome the problem of size. Given the relevant data on the Caribbean, one cannot but agree that Singham can do no better than express “guarded optimism” with respect to moves toward economic integration. It is a virtue of the book, unlike many others on the Caribbean, that it does not hold the promise of a bright new morrow, so out of tune with the data at hand.

The methodology will be of interest to all those who plan to do survey work in the Caribbean. The author points out the problems involved, including that of language, in doing election surveys in very small societies. Such caveats and techniques that were used to advantage, like the participant-observer approach, will be of assistance to future researchers in the area. Professor Singham’s volume will be of immense value if only to stimulate Third World social scientists to search for a more appropriate model with which to analyze the Third World. For Caribbean political scientists, this work will become an indispensable reference guide.

 

REFERENCES

Ake, Claude, A Theory of Political Integration Home-wood, Ill., Dorsey Press, 1967.

Braithwaite, Lloyd, The Present State of the Social Sciences 111 the British Caribbean – Caribbean Studies: A Symposium, ed. Vera Rubin, Institute of Economic and Social Research, University College of the West Indies, Jamaica, 1957.

Moskos, Charles, Jr., The Sociology of Political Independence, Scheukman Publishing Company, Cambridge, Mass., 1967.

Pabon, Milton, The Hero and the Crowd Caribbean Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1969).

Smith, M. G., The Plural Society in the British West Indies, Univcrsity of California Press, Berkely and Los Angeles, 1965.